Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 13, 1998

LP council to make decision on planning project


Despite unanimous backing by about 20 people at last Monday's special meeting, the Lester Prairie City Council postponed making a decision to hire the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (MMDC) to write a comprehensive plan for the city.

The council members, except Kay Jepson, concurred to take up the matter at tonight's regular meeting.

After hearing the presentation by MMDC planner Matt Johnson, Jepson motioned to hire the commission to write a comprehensive plan.

Mayor Ed Mlynar said he didn't think the council was still in special session (the evening started with a special council meeting called to resolve another issue.)

"It had better be," Jepson said, "because that was the way I had it set up."

After it was determined the council was still in special session, the other members declined to make a decision until the next meeting (tonight).

At the meeting, it was brought up a comprehensive plan was written in 1987, but it was not adopted by the council. MMDC was not aware of this.

Eugene Hippe of MMDC opened the meeting by stating the importance of a comprehensive plan.

"Planning is intelligent cooperation with the inevitable," he said.

He noted several items that do seem inevitable, such as the metro moving into this area.

"You can only support growth so fast and you want to have balanced growth," he said.

The cost for the MMDC to write the plan would be $5,870 and Hippe likened the plan to a blueprint.

"I like to think of it as building a house. The comprehensive plan is the blueprint; your tools are your ordinances," he said.

Researching and writing the plan will take 12 to 15 months, and it will include the purpose of the plan, the role of the planning commission and city council, a city background covering the historical, socio/economic, and natural resources, he explained.

It will cover the existing factors in the city such as land use, housing, business/industry, and public investments such as street, public buildings, and telecommunications.

MMDC will also tabulate and analyze a community survey, if the planning commission wishes to put one together. Johnson said he is a proponent of surveys as a tool to get community input.

The plan would also cover current and emerging issues, future needs and recommendations, annexation needs, and orderly annexation plans.

A community planning method would be a used in the process, whereby the community works together to develop the comprehensive plan.

"Community-wide planning is the only way to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to express their views on how they would like to see the community grow," Johnson said.

MMDC would work closely with the planning commission and how the planning commission would get the community involved would be up to it.

"If we do this plan, the community must make a commitment to it and use its planning commission," Hippe said.

He said the planning commission should meet once per month with MMDC. Other meetings with citizens or setting up citizen task forces would be up to the commission.

Council member Stan Ehrke, who is the planning commission chairman, said he has taken on other duties outside the council and would know in 30 days if he could commit the time.

The commission's by-laws state that the chairperson must be a council member. Mlynar said the council "will take care if it" if Ehrke cannot make the time commitment.

Community-based planning

The state has legislated that counties used community-based planning in creating their comprehensive plans and Johnson said the cities should follow the same guidelines.

The Community Based Planning act outlines 11 goals, objectives and strategies:

  • citizen participation
  • cooperation
  • economic development
  • conservation
  • livable community design
  • housing
  • transportation
  • land use planning
  • public investments
  • public education
  • sustainable development

While the state has also legislated that cities should follow their county's comprehensive plan, Johnson said McLeod County has not yet updated its comprehensive plan following the Community-Based Planning Act.

"The city has leeway now . . . and if the city has a plan, the county can't come in" and override it, Johnson said.

The state is also encouraging cooperation between the local governments. Johnson said it would be wise to talk with Winsted, Carver and Wright Counties, and include people from Winsted and Bergen Townships.

"To many people, they may not live in town, but Lester Prairie is still their town," Johnson said.

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